There are many different ideas about what is considered an important place for nature. Should we focus on globally threatened species? IUCN Red List? Should we be concerned about species with small ranges that are more prone to extinction due to habitat loss? Should we instead focus on pristine wilderness or threatened ecosystems? What about places where hundreds or even millions of animals come together to breed or eat, often creating an incredible spectacle? Or the most irreplaceable and unique places?
These are all important goals for conservation, but were not considered collectively until recently. That all changed in 2016 when the global conservation community came together and agreed on a common approach to identifying key natural areas – Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), the criteria of which capture all of the different ideas mentioned above.
After this approach was developed, 13 of the world’s leading nature conservation institutions, including BirdLife International, formed the KBA partnership. Your goal is simple: to map, monitor, and maintain the most important places for life on earth. As part of that, we have one brand new website The company currently contains data on more than 16,000 KBAs. Each individual location has information about the location, boundaries, and species and biodiversity for which they are important.
Cuban Bee Hummingbird, Cuba, Copyright Alan Lewis, from the Surfbirds Galleries
The website also explains how people can propose new KBAs and what criteria they will be rated by and how they will be used by governments, businesses, donors and the conservation community. It contains guidelines on how companies should proceed when working in or near KBAs and how KBAs are recognized as critical living space by a growing number of protection standards. The website provides free access to the World Database of KBAs and at-a-glance summaries of ours interactive dashboard (which can be set at global, regional or national level). More detailed questions can be answered by the Map search Option that allows a user to select KBAs for specific species groups, regions, and countries.
Global assessments of biodiversity patterns are useful, but most conservation policy decisions are made at the national level, so vital habitats need to be identified at the national level. If websites are to be legally protected and recognized as important, they must be included in their country’s guidelines. For this reason, KBAs are identified using local data and a bottom-up process. National KBA coordination groups are currently established in several countries around the world and conduct national assessments of their KBAs. Worldwide interest in establishing these groups is growing thanks to the benefits of using a globally recognized standard to identify key sites for biodiversity. Our challenge is to support each of them in efficiently identifying and maintaining the KBAs in their country.
In the meantime, groups that focus on specific species are updating KBA ratings worldwide. For example, the Amphibian Survival Alliance is currently evaluating numerous KBAs for amphibians, while the IUCN is identifying locations for freshwater species in different parts of the world. The website provides useful information in support of national KBA assessments as well Tools to help KBA applicants Map and rate potential websites online.
The recent one UN Biodiversity Summit provided an unprecedented opportunity for governments, businesses and nature conservationists to put the spotlight on the KBAs, which were unveiled on Monday 28 September at the Nature for Life Hubth September 2020. KBAs must form a core part of in future the next thirty year plan for biodiversity that the global community is currently developing.
For the next decade, every government should ensure that KBAs are identified, mapped, and conserved as a priority in order to draft the world’s most important natural areas. Such a design would not only provide useful guidance for prioritizing conservation measures, but should also guide infrastructure development, urban and agricultural expansion, and business operations. The new KBA website and database ensure that all data on this design is compiled in one place and made freely available in order to control planning and investment on a global, regional and national level.
Further information is available at www.keybiodiversityareas.org